I love grilling. Maybe it’s because I grew up in the Southern United States where people take their BBQ seriously. Maybe it’s because I get to create perfectly caramelized grill marks on my food. Or maybe it’s because the sizzle and the smoky aromas always take me back to carefree Arkansas summers spent by the pool.
During summer I grill almost every single night because it’s quick and easy. Grilled broccoli was a revelation for me—charring this slightly bitter brassica gives it a smoky, caramelized sweetness. Any true Southerner knows that good condiments are essential to BBQ and I’ve paired the charred broccoli with tapenade, a boldly flavoured olive paste. Tapenade is open to variation based on what herbs you’ve got on hand. Basil, lemon-thyme, mint, oregano or even lavender would be fine substitutions for the rosemary. For this recipe, a good quality extra virgin olive oil is worth using. Splurge on a special bottle with plenty of spice and vibrant flavour. Take note that this tapenade is a briny sauce flavoured with two cloves of fresh garlic—be ready for its punch! Here the spirit of Italian antipasti embraces French Provençal flavours in a dish that’s perfect for munching on in a sunny garden with either a glass of Prosecco or rosé wine.
I’m always going on about the health benefits of broccoli; so today I’ll just preach the power of olives. Russell H. Greenfield, MD, refers to olives as a Mediterranean Superfood and reports black olives have more antioxidants and phenols than green olives. Olives are rich in monounsaturated fat, which lowers cholesterol and may lower blood pressure, reducing the risk of heart disease. Anti-inflammatory qualities of olives promote cardiovascular health and reduce the risk of cancer. According to Dr. Greenfield, eating about 10 olives or 3 tablespoons olive oil a day is part of a traditional Mediterranean-style diet. Making your own tapenade rather than buying it at the store allows you to control the ingredients—no additives, just a handful of best quality super fresh ingredients pound to a paste with your mortar and pestle.
Do you have a favourite tapenade recipe? I would love to hear about it in the comments section.
Grilled Broccoli with Black Olive Tapenade
Serves 2 as an appetizer
- 2 garlic cloves
- Sea salt
- 2 teaspoons fresh rosemary leaves, finely chopped
- 100g/3.5oz pitted black olives (best quality you can find)
- 1 orange
- Extra virgin olive oil
- 1 crown broccoli (350g/12oz)
Make the tapenade. Peel the garlic cloves and place them in a mortar and pestle with half the rosemary leaves and a couple pinches sea salt. Pound the garlic into a paste. Finely chop the olives with a knife and add to the bowl with the garlic paste and the rest of the rosemary leaves, stirring to combine. Grate the zest of the orange over the bowl of olives, using a microplane or other fine grater. Juice the orange and add 1 teaspoon of the juice to the olive paste, reserving the rest of the orange juice for another use. Slowly drizzle 50mL/ ¼ cup olive oil into the olive paste, while stirring until the tapenade achieves a consistency that is smooth and spreadable. Add a little extra olive oil if needed to get the consistency right. You want the sauce to hold together when you dip the broccoli florets.
Cut the broccoli into florets, keeping a few centimeters of stem so you’ve got something to hold on to when dipping in tapenade. Heat an outdoor grill (or a grill pan on the stovetop) to medium high. Drizzle the broccoli with olive oil and season with a little salt, then place florets on the grill. Cook for about 5-7 minutes, turning once, until crisp-tender and caramelized. For smaller broccoli florets a grill basket may be handy to keep them from falling through the grates.
Serve the warm grilled broccoli florets immediately with a bowl of the olive tapenade for dipping.